Ending one of the longest-ever strikes in the history of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), hundreds of its employees late on Friday night celebrated the ouster of the national carrier’s chief Aijaz Haroon whose resignation was finally accepted.
In a breakthrough in negotiations between the government and the joint action committee (JAC) of the PIA employee unions, the government accepted the resignation of the airline’s managing director.
The news had an immediate effect as the JAC announced to end the strike .
“All flights will operate according to schedule after midnight,” said Sohail Baloch, the head of the JAC.
Earlier, Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar and Interior Minister Rehman Malik held another round of talks with the JAC after the latter had threatened to continue the strike indefinitely if their demands were not met.
The protesting airline workers staged a sit-in outside Islamabad airport for the fourth consecutive day. All flights remained suspended meanwhile. PIA officials claimed the airline had suffered lossess of over Rs2 billion over the past four days.
In Karachi, police thrashed airline workers at Karachi airport who were protesting against a proposed agreement on route-sharing between Pakistan International Airlines and Turkish Airlines .
Protests disrupted the national carrier’s operations at major airports around the country for the fourth consecutive day on Friday, but the situation took a turn for the worse when police resorted to baton-charge, which left dozens of protesters wounded while hundreds were arrested.
Surprisingly, personnel of law-enforcement agencies were fully supportive of the armed mob of a political union.
Later, Palpa chief Sohail Baluch told The Express Tribune that their team was negotiating with the government, but he said: ‘”At the same time, we condemn police high handedness at Karachi airport.” General Secretary Palpa TM Rabbani was also reportedly injured in the police action.
Meanwhile, Joint Action Committee of PIA Employees (JACPIAE) condemned the use of police force on the protestors, saying the police had no jurisdiction over the airport premises.
In Lahore, the airline had to cancel at least 44 domestic and international flights because of the strike by the JAC. According to the official website of the Allama Iqbal International airport, just one flight departed, and three international and one domestic flight arrived at the airport.
The national carrier’s losses continued to mount as employees continued their protest on Friday, forcing passengers to seek out other option for their onward journeys.
Travel agents also said they sustained major business losses, adding they had to bear a loss of about 80 per cent on domestic flights and 50 per cent on international flights.
In a related development, the manager operations at the Daewoo terminal Ali Asghar told that The Express Tribune that the company had increased the number of vehicles to Karachi to assist stranded passengers.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 12th, 2011.
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